Consider the sad and ominous story of JasonRussell. His name may have already flashed past you by now, in the whirlwind of current events.
So let me remind you:
Along with three of his buddies, Jason created the film Kony 2012, which attracted more than 80 million hits on Youtube a few weeks ago. I don’t want to have a discussion here with you about Ugandan politics, or about accuracy in journalism, or about the finances of his nonprofit organization. All of that has been discussed ad-nausium. I want to talk to you about vision. Here was a young film maker who traveled to Africa many years ago, initially to make a documentary about the war in Darfur. There he met a young African boy, named Jacob Acaye who had been commandeered by Joseph Kony and The Lord’s Resistance Army to act as a child fighter. Jacob’s brother had been killed by the LRA.
Jason Russell got fired up about this. As a young man, he started to feel a sense of vision. I don’t think he’s ever claimed that bringing Kony to justice would solve all of the world’s problems overnight. He wanted to shine a spotlight on one of hundreds of thousands of things which are out of balance on our planet: the thousands of African children who have been coerced into violence by this organization.
As is often the case with underfunded nonprofit organizations, it took him a while to make his film, which is why some questions have been raised about whether it is still relevant. But still, they did it. He took a stand for what he believes to be right and true. He put his film up on YouTube, just like anyone else does, with no way to know just how many people would watch it. The rest, as we love to say, is history. With the help of celebrities like Rihanna and Oprah Winfrey sending out twitter messages, Invisible Children got 40 million hits on that movie within a week.
“Great,” you might say. “Mission accomplished.”
But Jason Russell offers us a moral tale that every silver lining also has a cloud. Getting a lot of attention about anything you feel passionate about will also bring you detractors, and these days, with the comments box available to anybody on YouTube, most blogs, and Facebook, people can get nasty. Very, very nasty.
Jason Russell’s little video drew out intense personal attacks on him, on his marriage, on his child. Three weeks later he suffered a complete breakdown, and was apprehended by the San Diego police, running naked on the streets. He’s now in a hospital, where it’s expected it will take him several months to recover his balance.
As you might remember, I had a similar experience, although my little town is so small that running naked in the streets doesn’t really get you the same kind of publicity.
Dr. Gay Hendricks and I made a little video about a year ago called “Dear Woman.” Just like Jason Russell, we didn’t expect to solve the world’s problems overnight. We just wanted to highlight one piece, which is that we’ve lived in a global culture mostly dominated by masculine energy for thousands of years, not really giving the feminine a full opportunity to express itself. We thought it would be a good gesture to acknowledge that, to offer women an apology for men being a bit pushy, running on testosterone, and to celebrate the possibility of co-creation. Just like with Invisible Children’s film, there were a few things to like about what we did, and there were plenty of things to dislike too. In our case, for example, we did it in a hurry, and on a zero budget. We grabbed a few people at Gay and Kathryn Hendrick’s Christmas party, a few more at my men’s group, and finished it up at our local food co-op. So of course all the men were living in California, they were mostly white and middle-aged, and probably looked a little bit “new agey,” (all though in fact there were many very straight and highly successful professional people among the group.)
Despite the fact that the film, granted, had it’s pros and cons, no one would anticipate the deluge of hatred that it generated. More than 5,000 comments (which we did not publish), simply accusing us of being fa**ots. Seven emails came with people saying they knew our addresses and were coming over to put bullets through our heads. Thousands of comments were unbelievably derogatory to women, along the lines of “make me a sandwich, b****ch, and then spread your legs.” And let me tell you, it’s really not as easy as it might seem to take all this with a sense of humor.
I’ve written a few blog posts on Huffington Post, which also got a lot of comments. I was sitting down last Christmas with Coleman Barks, the celebrated translator of Rumi, talking about blogging. “I love to write,” I said to Coleman, “but sometimes the comments can be really vicious.”
“What?” said Coleman, in his thick Tennessee accent. “You mean the things people write underneath? Nah. You don’t want to read them. That’ll ruin your whole day!”
Which brings me to the moral of the story, dear friends. We live in extraordinary times. Some people see this time as one of breakdown, others see it as one of breakthrough. If I had to summarize everything I’d learned, I’d say this is the Age of the Unique Gift. This is the time to find what you were born to give, to harness that energy, and to give it fully and generously to the world. And if you do so, just like Jason Russell, and Gay Hendricks and myself, and just like many other people, you may, whether you like it or not, “go viral,” sometimes. Whether that means a lot of views on YouTube, or hits on a blog post, or anything else, you may find that your unique gift touches more people than you imagined.
And then, inevitably, you’re going to be celebrated by some and hated by others. If what you have to give is well tried and tested, and already familiar to the world, you may not ruffle too many feathers. If your gift is new, and unusual, and groundbreaking, you may find yourself having to deal with division, hatred, ridicule, and maybe even death threats, if you’re really controversial.
I think it’s important for all of us, whether we’ve been through this process or not, to realize that we have a gift, and we also have a huge resistance to giving that gift as well. Somewhere inside of us we know that success could be more difficult to deal with than failure.
Dropping into the infinite source of creativity and intelligence, discovering your unique gift, and giving it fully to the world, is the subject of my new Living Awakening Course. I’ve prepared a free 10 day free “mini-course” for you to get a taste of what it’s all about.
This Thursday, April 5th, at a 6pm Pacific Time, I’m going to talk about the 5 keys to Living Awakening, and what it takes to overcome your fear of being judged and shine as the magnificent sun that you are.
Picture Credits: People.com, lewwaters.wordpress.com, drk-shannon.blogspot.com